A change from the federal government on Aug. 31 is streamlining how Dearborn Public Schools will distribute free student meals this school year, starting with the distribution on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Parents now will not need to provide student information to collect a meal, which also means they do not need to pre-order meals through the Nutrislice app.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced schools would be allowed to continue distributing free meals to all students through the end of December or until funding for the program runs out. The program that allowed for blanket meal distribution was set to expire as school resumed in Dearborn. Without the expanded program, all schools needed to link any meal they distributed or served to a particular student. Most districts would have also needed to know which students had to pay for the lunch or breakfast and which were eligible for free meals. Dearborn Public Schools already offers free lunch and breakfast to all its students.
“Even if the announcement came very late, we are glad we are able to continue a more robust meal distribution program for our community, at least for now,” said Jeff Murphy, Director of Food Service. “Now we need to get the word out to the community that the meal distribution process will be the simpler, familiar process they have seen in one form or another since March.”
Monday’s announcement means Dearborn can continue to hand out free meals for any child under 18, even if that child is not a student of this district. Dearborn Schools will not yet start collecting student names and their student ID numbers, though that could change later in the school year depending on the requirements from the USDA. The district was preparing to start collecting student information for all the meals it distributed. District parents were encouraged to gather their student’s information and use the Nutrislice app to pre-order meals to streamline the pickup process. Nutrislice pre-ordering will be suspended for now since the district does not currently need the student information to hand out meals.
Any adult or older student can come to one of the distribution sites and pick up a week’s worth of lunch and breakfast items for their students. The student does not need to attend that school or be present at pickup.
Thursday, Sept. 3, will be the first day for the new school-year distribution program. After the first week, weekly meal packs will be distributed on Fridays, starting with Friday, Sept. 11.
With the restart of school online, the district is also doubling the number of locations where student meals will be distributed. Meals will be available for pickup from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. each week at Bryant Middle School, Dearborn High School, Edsel Ford High School, Fordson High School, Henry Ford Elementary, the Dearborn Heights Campus (Howe/STEM/Berry Center), Lowrey School, Maples Elementary, McCollough-Unis, McDonald Elementary, Miller Elementary, Salina Intermediate, Smith Middle School, Stout Middle School and Woodworth Middle School.
At most locations, adults will be able to stay in their vehicles and pull up to have food loaded in their car.
Dearborn Public Schools began offering free food distribution in March just days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered schools to close to slow the spread of COVID-19. Food distribution was initially funded under emergency provisions of the School Lunch Program. Food distribution continued over the summer through a separate federal summer nutrition program, which ended in Dearborn with the distribution on Aug. 27. Neither of those programs required the district to collect student information. With the restart of school, though, Dearborn Public Schools was switching back to the School Lunch Program, which normally requires each meal to be linked to a certain student. The distribution program will likely change again when the district moves back to in-school learning.
The district has been distributing more than 60,000 meals a week and has handed out more than 1.25 million meals since the shut down in March.
“We know many of our families rely on these free school meals, and we are glad to be able continue to serve our students in this way,” said Superintendent Glenn Maleyko.